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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Sep 26th, 2017)

A group of researchers from the University of Zurich and NCCR Robotics have invented an event-based camera, which can help drones fly better in darkness and at high speeds. An event-based camera solves a multitude of problems. In some situations, the GPS found in a drone can be unreliable in certain locations. While a camera can help a drone fix its location, it needs ample light to do so. Autonomous drones are restricted to flying below speeds that cause motion blur, which can affect vision algorithms. The event-based camera uses vision sensors that output pixel-level brightness changes instead of standard intensity frames. As a result, the camera’s retina doesn’t need to capture full light in order to generate a full image. There is still no timeline as to when these drones would be deployed, but could be game-changing for search-and-research operations, among other uses. – ZDNET

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DJI said that most of its drones have the hardware necessary to implement a drone safety system. Such systems have been suggested to keep drones from flying into sensitive areas, like no-fly zones and airports. At the International Civil Aviation Organization's Drone Enable Conference in Montreal, the company mentioned its recommendations for monitoring and managing drone traffic through a series of white papers, which can be seen here. One of the white papers suggests that a central control center is not required to keep drones from hitting manned aircraft. Instead, DJI suggests a combination of on-board anti-collision technology, obstacle-sensing systems and radio transmitters to avoid obstacles. The company also suggests implementing an “invisible” drone license plate system, which would allow authorities to respond to complaints more effectively. DJI is working on developing a prototype of such a system. — DIGITAL TRENDS 

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Privacy advocates have taken issue with use of drones by the Boston Police Department. Earlier this year, the department spent $17,500 on three drones and related equipment over a three-month period. This information was obtained by the ACLU through a public records request. The organization looked into this because of a complaint of a drone flying over a housing development in the city's Jamaica Plain neighborhood. The BPD had said there were no immediate plans to use the drones until community input was considered.  Earlier this year, Massachusetts lawmakers weighed a bill that would add some limits on drone usage by police forces. – BOSTON GLOBE

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A drone flown by a civilian hit an Army helicopter that was flying over New York City. The Black Hawk helicopter, which calls Fort Bragg, North Carolina home, was flying over the Midland Beach section of Staten Island around 8:30 pm last Thursday. An Army spokesman confirmed that the four-person crew was uninjured. The crew discovered the collision when they found a piece of a drone in the oil cooler and damage to the fuselage and two blades of the helicopter. It is not clear who operated the drone, but it is believed to be an accident. Officials believe the collision is the first time a civilian drone has hit a military aircraft in flight. — FOX 5 

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New York environmental workers are using drones to respond to oil spills and find bat hibernation sites. The Department of Environmental Conservation said it has 22 drones in its fleet, which help the agency monitor and protect the environment. In one case, a drone helped locate an oil spill in a Staten Island wetland and mapped out 200 acres of wetlands in St. Lawrence County, New York. Drones have also been used to find bat hibernation sites. You can watch a video of how the department uses these drones here. — US NEWS

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